Worth Reading - 9/15

1. Scott Sauls writes about the danger of 'Outrage Porn,' which is the condition of being excited by being (perpetually) upset about something.

New York Times writer Tim Kreider coined the term, “Outrage Porn,” to describe what he sees as our insatiable search for things to be offended by. Based on hundreds of comments and letters to the editor, Kreider says that many contemporary people feed off of feeling 1) right and 2) wronged. Outrage Porn resembles actual pornography. It aims for a cheap, orgasmic thrill at the expense of another human being, but without any personal accountability or commitment to that human being.

Outrage Porn often escalates into the public shaming of groups and persons. Labeling, caricature and exclusion occur as offended parties rally together against a common enemy.

There are many forms of online shaming. There is passive-aggressive shaming via the non-responsive ignoring of personal emails, comments and tweets. A person gets singled out via an unflattering photo shared without permission and intended to mock. Another is left out of a group selfie that says, “You are not one of us.”

2. An interesting post by an author reflecting on the question whether Michael Foucalt, a founding-father of sorts for the deconstructionist left, could have become a fan a capitalism in his later decades. This goes along with the various conspiracy theories about why his estate will not allow his last book to be published, with speculation that he might have rejected some of the far-left stances of his earlier writings.

Academic leftists consider Michael Foucault an intellectual giant. His writings on the repressive power of modern institutions dominate our university departments, from literary studies to political science, anthropology, and geography. By the end of the 1980s, he had acquired a saint-like authority in Western academia. As Belgian sociologist Daniel Zamora stressed—in an interview tellingly titled “Can We Criticize Foucault?”—“he’s become...an untouchable figure within part of the radical left.”

Yet at some point in the 1970s Foucault caught a “neoliberal virus.” The first signs of this emerged in 1975, when he began revisiting the radical ’60s activities that he himself had molded. A few years later, he developed an interest in “neoliberalism”—progressive social scholars’ pejorative term for the renewed interest in individual liberty and free markets that emerged following the welfare state’s crisis and socialism’s decline.

Starting in 1978, in interviews and lectures, Foucault used modern libertarian and libertarian-leaning thinkers like F. A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Wilhelm Röpke, Milton Freedman, and Gary Becker to challenge the Left’s orthodoxies, especially their veneration of a benevolent welfare state. Foucault stunned his acolytes by suggesting that these writers rewarded serious study. Worse still, he castigated democratic socialism’s failures and challenged his students to apply cost-benefit analysis to governmental bureaucracies.

Many left-wing academics downplayed Foucault’s libertarian interests as misunderstood episodes in an otherwise nobly progressive career. But publication in 2005 of his 1978-1979 lectures sparked a debate within Foucault scholarship about whether, and to what extent, he had come to favor capitalism.

3. Plagiarism is a high crime of the writing world. Sometimes it can happen by accident if you don't cite your sources even in informal writing.

As I devoured her books so many years ago, I had quoted her in my journals, prayed her prayers in my own voice. In my silent hours of crying out to God, I had copied her passages and doodled her quotes, weaving them into my own. After all, she had given me words when I was too sad to find my own. But in my stream of consciousness journaling, I didn’t quote my sources. (Because who footnotes in the privacy of their own journals?) Years later, when it came time to write this new book, I revisited those journals that had chronicled the stages of my journey. I rediscovered words and prayers and ideas and themes, all in my handwriting. And I simply pulled from my journals, and I wrote them into a new manuscript.

Yes, she had found her words in a blog post that could be easily fixed, but the greater concern is that the blog post was an excerpt from a book. And that book was now out in the world. Such things are not as quickly fixed.

I called my agent immediately. It happened to be on his birthday. First, I told him happy birthday, then I told him I had accidentally broken the law in a book that was out in the world. I prepared myself to be sued, to lose my credibility, and worst of all, to never write again. It felt unprofessional, and unprofessional is never something I want to be known for. I didn’t want to draw anyone’s integrity into question, certainly not mine, and definitely not my publishers’.

4. Carl Ellis talks about the importance of doing theology for activist Christians. He's a voice that we can benefit from listening to.

As the cultural ground shifts under our feet, the church often gets caught up in these tectonic quakes — unnecessarily so. Much of our stress is due to an inadequate theology. Not that our theology is wrong as far as it goes. It’s just that it has further to go. Most Christians I talk to define theology as, “The study of God.” While I affirm this definition, it leaves out the cultural and historical context in which we study God. A broader, more comprehensive definition is, “The application of God’s Word by persons in every area of life.” (Dr. John Frame) This includes the study of God.

In our Western context, several valuable methods of doing theology have developed such as Exegetical theology and Systematic theology. However too often I have seen a tendency to think that all theology that can be done has been done. This is a short step from relying on theology more than on the Word of God itself. The scope of the Bible covers all of reality while the scope of theology is limited. If the Bible can be compared to a movie, our theology would be one frame from it.

5. The intolerance of the faithful in politics and the public square is an issue in the US and the UK as this post at the Acton Institute outlines:

Last week eruptions of anger greeted the MP’s appearance on Good Morning Britain, a lightish chat show. When asked about abortion, he said it was “morally indefensible” under any circumstances. Rees-Mogg added that he opposed gay marriage, because “marriage is a sacrament, and the decision of what is a sacrament lies with the Church, not with Parliament.” However, he said that as prime minister, he would not interfere with the legal availability of abortion, because his private faith “wouldn’t be the law of the land.”

The commentariat were, of course, outraged. Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote, “Rees-Mogg’s religious faith is used to excuse his appalling bigotry. He is a Catholic and this kind of fundamentalism is always anti-women, but for some reason we are to respect it. I don’t. It has no place in public life.”

Perhaps they smelled blood. Earlier this year Tim Farron was driven from his role as leader of the country’s moribund centrist party the Liberal Democrats over his views on same-same relationships, although the evangelical Farron answered with not quite Thomas More-like courage.